Thanks to Amanda Watson, Director of the O’Quinn Law Library, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Houston Law Center and Vice-Chair of CS-SIS, for this post. 

Let’s be honest: distance management is strange. It requires a set of muscles many of us have never had to flex. As managers, we are spending our mental energy trying to support new systems of learning, patron populations with new challenges, and of course we can’t forget to manage our teams. I would like to offer the following ideas to help with this new lift:

  1. Manage to the top. When I was a younger law teacher, an esteemed colleague told me to never teach to the bottom or middle of the class. He said you always have to teach to the top, and trust that you are giving everyone your best, and allowing them the opportunity to rise to their best. Don’t give your team micro-managing tasks. Instead, challenge them to help your library by bringing their own best to the table. What does this look like? Create a shared document (use a google document if you don’t have a system in place), and ask everyone to contribute three ideas for distance work. Invest in those ideas. I can hear some of you saying, well if you had an employee like I have, you’d never say something like that. I promise I’ve had a version of that person. In honesty, they may not contribute. But if you spend all your management time focused on that employee, you’ll miss all the incredible contributions of your team. Manage to the top.
  2. Add a back-up plan. Then give your back-up plan a back-up plan. What are some tasks your team can accomplish when they don’t have a clear idea of what to do? Do they have access to a professional development platform? Is everyone Westlaw/Lexis/Bloomberg/etc. certified? Can you divide the top 100 law schools up in groups and ask your team to review their websites and catalogs for ideas to improve yours? Can you mail your people stacks of postcards, so they can handwrite notes to students encouraging them in this new environment? All of our great ideas don’t have to be creative or tech-savvy.
  3. Stay in touch. Communicate with your team. Tell them what you know. Tell them what you don’t know. Ask how they are. Use Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Slack (or a combination of them all) to set up team chats, meetings, and file locations. Send them a video, plan a weekly call, or virtual team meeting. Emails are fine, but true collaboration is better.
  4. Be unceasingly loyal to your team. As library managers, we will build some incredible things. We’ll be part of some cool projects. But in the end nothing will matter more than how we treat the people who worked with us. Think about them, their challenges, and lead from that perspective.

Today’s post is part 3 of 3, covering various aspects of the recent ABA Techshow in Chicago.

Thanks to Artie Berns, Research/Emerging Technologies Librarian, Western New England University, School of Law Library, for this fantastic series on the ABA Techshow!

In my two previous posts, I discussed a few of the products featured at the 2020 ABA Techshow. This post is about the educational sessions available at Techshow. Since my focus this year was on learning about products in the Exhibit Hall, I didn’t attend very many of the educational sessions. However, I feel that a discussion of the event that doesn’t discuss the various educational sessions would be incomplete.

A little overview of the structure of Techshow will contextualize some of what is discussed below. The educational programs within Techshow are divided into subject areas called Tracks. Some Tracks span two days and include eight sessions, others are for a single day and include four sessions. Of particular note to academic law librarians is that this Techshow marks the first year of an academic track being included as a full-fledged track rather than being considered experimental or not officially part of Techshow. This year’s academic track was called Next 20.

That being said, of the few I educational sessions I was able to attend, I found the session, Bridging the Justice Gap: AI and A2J, to be the most useful. Before going to this year’s Techshow, one of my school’s adjunct professors expressed interest in creating an A2J project where students could develop chatbots. During this session, one of the presenters, Quinten Steenhuis, shared his experience in creating such a system to assist Boston area tenants with housing issues. After the session, I was able to obtain Mr. Steenhuis’s contact information and obtain some advice on how to proceed with such a project.

The following are the experiences shared by other law librarians and law students who attended Techshow with their law librarians. In some instances, I have done minimal editing for spatial rather than content concerns.

Michael Robak, Director, Schoenecker Law Library, University of St. Thomas, School of Law

Discussing the increasing inclusion of legal academia in the Techshow:
[W]ith the advent of the Academic Track, Techshow attendance and interest has become even more robust.  And Thomson Reuters and Techshow have begun law student sponsorships which has also increased attendance.  I think though, most importantly, there are Law Librarians who are adding “tech ed” to their portfolios to complement the “ed tech” hats many already wear.  Legal research is now part of the practice platforms our vendors are creating and, as Information Professionals, it makes increasing sense we play a significant role in the development of technology education at our institutions.

The pitch for academic attendance is easy.  Most law schools produce lawyers who will practice as solos or in small firms.  Those lawyers will need to effectively utilize technology to efficiently practice law.  While this has been the general story for a while now (remember Techshow started in 1986), technology is an ever-moving target.  Techshow is the sweet spot for attorneys who want to stay abreast of the changes and how it can improve their practice.  Larger law firms are there too as well as government attorneys but it is the combination of the track presentations and materials presented, the newer practitioners in attendance who we can ask the question – “now that you’ve been out of law school, what would have helped you to better understand tech?” and vendors that you won’t see at any academic conference.  These three elements provide law librarians, hands down, absolutely the greatest ROI for conference attendance.

Discussing session: Seeing is Believing: Virtual Reality Preparedness:
Mathew and Kenton’s presentation provided clear direction and guidance on both the possibilities of VR technologies as well as their practical uses.  VR clearly offers the legal industry real potential.  And law schools are exactly the right place for VR R&D to be underway as so ably and entertainingly explained by Matthew and Kenton.  This wasn’t just a “let’s talk about possibilities” presentation.  This was a nuts and bolts, clear and concise, explanation and demonstration of things you can be doing today at your law school.  And with only a very modest investment in the technology.  What a great start for the Next 20 track.

Julie Randolph, Reference Librarian, Temple University, Beasley School of Law Library

My favorite session at Techshow was one I hadn’t expected to get all that excited about – Order, Order:  Law Firm Document and Knowledge Management.  Temple University Beasley School of Law’s librarians are planning to introduce a class on law practice technology in the near future, so I came to Techshow to learn more about what technology law firms of all sizes – as well as other legal organizations – use.  Coming from a big law background, I didn’t have a good understanding of solo and small firms’ technology needs and challenges.  This session gave me a great deal of insight as to where solo and small firms may be technology-wise, provided a thorough run-down of a document management system’s core functions, and included information on specific document and knowledge management systems appropriate for these smaller firms.  As a bonus, after the presentation, I started chatting with someone in the row in front of me who then expressed interest in having me present at a CLE panel he’s starting to assemble – you never know what kind of connections you’ll make at a conference!

Debbie Ginsberg, Educational Technology Librarian, Chicago-Kent College of Law Library

Cloudy – with a Chance of Sanctions — or Success!, presented by Nicole Black and Jim Calloway

With these speakers, how can you go wrong?

When asked, many lawyers report they aren’t using “the cloud” for practice.  But of course, in 2020, almost all of us are in one way or another, even if we don’t really remember that Dropbox is actually a “cloud” service.

Knowing what risks and benefits our cloud usage involves is a part of maintaining our technological competence (now required in 38 states).  It’s easy to forget to think wholistically when we are trying to buy a service to solve a problem, but it’s important that lawyers understand exactly what they are purchasing.  They need to know the full ramifications of the service on their business, their clients, their security, and their data.  And, as I remind students from time to time- you’re lawyers.  Read the usage agreements and other terms of service!

I teach this concept to students when I can, but the session provided a useful overview of things not to forget.  A few tips to keep in mind when we use software housed on outside servers (or, really, any technologies):

  • Investigate your provider: Do they provide the level of security you’d like?  Will you be able to retrieve your data?  How will confidentiality be maintained?
  • Read your Service Level Agreement: Remember that with many providers, you can negotiate the terms.
  • Check your provider’s financial stability:  Will they be around in 5 years?  Is another company about to buy them?
  • Check your own financial stability: Can you pay for a whole year, or just month-to-month?  What happens if you don’t pay?

Using cloud services is, for most lawyers, pretty much unavoidable.  But doing your research and planning from the start can avoid many problems later on.

Jenny Wondracek, Director of Legal Educational Technology and Professor of Practice, University of North Texas, College of Law

The 60 Tips in 60 Minutes session is always my favorite session.  I learn so much in such a condensed amount of time as the presenters offer up some of their favorite technologies and tips.  Some of the highlights include:

  • Use the word Draft in an email To: field to prevent accidental sending of a draft email.
  • Using PowerPoint to record a presentation? It can now live caption the speaker with pretty good accuracy.
  • The iPhone can be used as an assistive listening device. Turn on the Hearing setting to use your phone as a microphone, and then hook it to Bluetooth enabled earbuds or hearing aids.
  • Best travel mouse – Microsoft PL2 ARC Touch Mouse (I added it to my Amazon Wishlist!)
  • Find out if you have been hacked –

These are just a few that caught my attention. Want to read more of the 55 tips?  See Ed Walters’ Tweet Rollup –

Kimberly Hale, Juris Doctor Candidate 2020, University of North Texas, College of Law

As a first time ABA Techshow goer, I didn’t know what to expect. The Techshow did not disappoint; every session I attended was informative, engaging, and useful. My favorite session, however, was Bring Design Thinking to Your Law Practice by Susan Letterman White. Session attendees came to the workshop with a current project or problem and, after working through the Design Thinking process, were able to leave with new ideas for practical solutions to those problems. I learned that, unlike traditional problem-solving, the focus is not on the cause of the problem; instead, Design Thinking helps people progress toward a solution through a collaborative, creative process. During the workshop, we partnered up: one person took the consultant role and the other played the client. My “client” was faced with the problem of high law clerk turnover at her firm. Rather than focusing on the cause of the turnover, we talked through potential ways to solve the problem (e.g., creating an official law clerk onboarding and training program, in addition to other ways to improve the overall culture of the firm). The exercise was a great introduction to the Design Thinking process. In a former career, I worked as a marketing professional, and what I enjoyed most was creative brainstorming for new content ideas. Design Thinking embodies that creative side. Now, as a May 2020 graduate, the prospect of integrating Design Thinking into my career is very exciting!

Kelsey Dozier, Juris Doctor Candidate 2020, University of North Texas, College of Law

My favorite session was the keynote, which featured Mary O’Carroll the head of legal operations at Google. I really enjoyed her optimistic perspective on the direction in which the legal industry is heading. One of the things I have always found the most daunting about joining the legal industry is the uncertainty of my place in it in the future, particularly in the context of technological advances that are so often ignored or avoided by attorneys for fear of them rendering lawyers obsolete. But Ms. O’Carroll described an ever-changing and innovating legal industry that doesn’t fear obsolescence in the face of change. She envisions one that embraces change for the betterment of our industry that will not render lawyers obsolete, but rather allow them to provide more legal services to more people than ever before. I found her perspective refreshing and inspiring in the face of an industry historically resistant to change, and I hope to share in that perspective as I build my career.

Kenton Brice, Director of Technology Innovation, University of Oklahoma College of Law

The ABA Techshow is always an incredible time to learn, network, and grow as a professional.  This year was no different.  I had the opportunity to see some old friends in the legal technology world and to make some new connections that will hopefully grow into friendships in the future.  Aside from meeting and talking with people that are incredibly smart and forward-thinking about the legal profession and the normal tracks of learning at Techshow, this year, I took in two sessions on wellness and well-being.  Both of these sessions were incredibly valuable.  My favorite was a session entitled “Create Your Personal Well-Being Plan” presented by Tharwat Lovett and Roberta Tepper.  This session included a road-map for well-being, and actually provided a paper (I know, low-tech) hand-out that helped guide our process.  In the end, I had a toolkit to take with me that I am now leveraging already!  Although this was not necessarily a “tech”-oriented session, this session has already helped inform my everyday life, including my relationship with technology.

In addition to my own experience at Techshow, I had the opportunity to take 10 of the law students from the University of Oklahoma College of Law with me.  They had an incredible time at Techshow.  I’ve included a few of their (anonymized) statements about Techshow below.  If you are wondering whether sponsoring law students is something that your institution should do, I hope these will help encourage you towards a firm “yes”!

“Attending Techshow gives students a rare opportunity to switch gears and focus on practicing law. The event brings together so many professionals dedicated to delivering quality legal services. As technological advances go from new ideas to industry standards, we need to be aware of what’s coming. The atmosphere is friendly, and whether you are a tech wiz or someone with minimal tech experience, this is an event worth attending.” – OU Law 3L

“As a law student, Techshow is not something most of us would think about let alone be aware of. It is geared towards attorneys and that is evident by the lack of students at the conference. This should not be the case. If we want to advance the legal profession and provide better value for our clients, then more students should be attending conferences like this and the other tech conferences offered during the year. As a new graduate, we might not be able to offer the most value to clients because of our lack of experience, but we should be able to offer our firms a lot of value through our knowledge of technological advancements that are changing the legal field. This is something we can take out into the legal field in order to make a change.” – OU Law 3L

“Techshow was an absolutely awesome experience! If you have the ability to attend, I highly recommend you do so because Techshow was an incredibly valuable opportunity. Not only did I learn a ton about new and upcoming legal technologies, I also developed some great professional connections and made some fantastic memories. The Techshow schedule was jam-packed with informative lectures and fun events which always kept things interesting. If you are interested in learning about new legal technology and networking with those in the legal tech industry, Techshow is a must-attend event!” – OU Law 2L

“Techshow is a unique experience for law students. It is one of the few environments where students can see multiple practice management platforms, timekeeping applications, litigation aids, and other legal technology side by side, to see what is not only new but provides the best solution to a particular problem. The ability to talk to vendors and see an in-person demonstration is only available to law students at this kind of conference because the real-life tools that are necessary for the practice of law often are ignored for educational purposes in the standard law school curriculum.  Not only is Techshow valuable for the experiences with legal technology vendors, it is also one of the few places law students can have such a broad swath of choices for ongoing practice-specific education. While most conferences have general themes and lawyers can choose CLE experiences based on the theme of the conference, the sheer number of tracks at Techshow allows lawyers and students to create an experience that most suits their needs. For those students who feel that there is a hole in their knowledge, Techshow is a way to shorten the learning curve, in order to be a practice-ready, value-adding individual in their firm sooner.” – OU Law 2L

“When one considers the legal profession, the adjective “cutting-edge” probably is not one that comes to mind. After all, the law invariably lags other elements of society, and the industry that facilitates its gradual march is no exception. But ABA Techshow is a place where innovation thrives and conventional notions of what the practice of law is like and should be are turned on their heads.

From the first minutes of the conference, rising legal tech entrepreneurs showcased their ingenuity in leveraging automation and artificial intelligence to solve problems spanning the most mundane aspects of client billing to the quandaries of the access to justice gap. And for nearly 72 straight hours thereafter, some of the most forward-thinking legal professionals in the world shared insights that promise to make us better, more efficient lawyers who can create value for clients in ways that have never been possible before and have only recently become conceivable. Large discussions on automation, cybersecurity, lawyer well-being, the client experience, and other topics were wonderful venues for gaining exposure to broad observations about the state and trajectory of the profession, but the greatest value came from smaller, more intimate conversations that took place while roaming the expo hall, standing in line for lunch, or attending one of the many “after hours” networking events.” – OU Law 3L

This is the conclusion of the three-part series. If you missed the first two posts, check them out!
Part 1
Part 2

Today’s post is part 2 of 3, covering various aspects of the recent ABA Techshow in Chicago.

Thanks to Artie Berns, Research/Emerging Technologies Librarian, Western New England University, School of Law Library, for this fantastic series on the ABA Techshow!

In my last post, I covered my favorites from Start-Up Alley. This post covers some of the coolest products from the main Exhibit Hall. At this year’s ABA Techshow, I was a man with a mission—to get a good look at every product vendors were showing off. This year’s co-chairs, Catherine Sanders Reach and Heidi Alexander, did not make this an easy task; they had managed to fill every single vendor booth. With only two and a half days to review all the products, I did not spend much time at the other informational or educational sessions. In the next post, I have asked several of our law librarian colleagues to share their thoughts about what educational sessions they found most interesting or useful.

Exposition Hall: Exhibitors

Outside of Start-Up Alley are the presumably more established exhibitors. This year’s Techshow had over 120 exhibitors and the expo was jam-packed. Many of these will be familiar to the folks I expect are reading this blog: Clio, Fastcase, etc. I’m not going to discuss products with which I feel the readers of this blog are already familiar unless they have added a new feature. With that being said, here are a few that I thought were exceptional.

Trial Template

Trial Template is a product that will help you leverage Microsoft Powerpoint presentations in the courtroom or anywhere a mesmerizing image would help keep the attention of an audience. It is a collection of images, animations, and preformatted slides created with the needs of trial attorneys in mind. For instance, the collection includes a 3D model of the human spine that the user can rotate and view from any position. Another example is an animated target graphic that can be used to emphasize a particular spot within a still photo in evidence. There are hundreds of other visual aids within this package. Trial Template’s creative director, Matthew Kimmins, has informed me that the company would be honored to help support legal education by providing access to the product to law schools.

Earth Class Mail

Want to go paperless? Earth Class Mail wants you to go paperless too. So much so that they have created a service that reroutes all of your snail mail to one of their regional offices, scans it, OCRs it, shreds it, and delivers it to you digitally through email or deposits it on a cloud drive. They can even sort out junk mail. Earth Class serves both individuals and businesses (legal being a primary focus) of all sizes.  Consumers make up a large percentage of their customer base.

Blue J Legal

Blue J Legal’s product Tax Foresight uses AI to predict IRS classifications or outcomes in cases. The user chooses the type of determination to be made and answers a questionnaire about the situation. For example, whether a worker would is classified as an employee or an independent contractor. After answering a few questions, the AI makes a prediction of how a particular issue would be determined that includes an indication of the confidence that the prediction is accurate, an explanation of why the prediction was made, a list of cases with similar facts as yours, and references to binding cases. The user then has an option to change some of the factors upon which the prediction was based to see how the prediction changes.

Compose by CaseText

CaseText has created yet another innovative product, Compose. For a fee, Compose can create a first draft of different types of motions in Federal Court. Users select the type of motion needed and provide party names. Then users can choose specific relevant arguments that are added to a downloadable document. Compose will suggest authorities to cite for particular arguments.  Additionally, users can also do case law research on the spot by utilizing the product’s integration with CaseText to search for other relevant authorities.

Watch for part 3 to be posted on Friday.

Today’s post is part 1 of 3, covering various aspects of the recent ABA Techshow in Chicago.

Thanks to Artie Berns, Research/Emerging Technologies Librarian, Western New England University, School of Law Library, for this fantastic series on the ABA Techshow!

I recently attended the ABA Techshow. This year, I was a man with a mission—to get a good look at every product vendors were showing off. In this post I will discuss what I considered to be the most exciting and innovative products from the Start-Up Alley. My next post will cover several products from the main Exhibit Hall, and after that, I have a report which combines the thoughts from several of our law librarian colleagues about their favorite educational sessions.

Exposition Hall: Start-Up Alley

Start-up alley showcases the contestants of the Start-Up Pitch competition. The competition pits new legal tech products against each other for some fabulous prizes, mostly advertising. You can see a full list of contestants for this year’s competition here. My favorites from Start-Up Alley include Woodpecker, Lawgood, and Josef.


This is a document automation product that helps produce fillable forms. You simply input a document or set of related documents you have already created for Woodpecker’s AI to analyze. Woodpecker will create fillable forms from whatever you fed into it and will then ask the user to go over the list of fields to make sure each field is just what you want it to be. The user then has a fillable form based on their own document, which could be used with Microsoft Word’s mail merge feature. Woodpecker’s founder and CEO, Alex Melehy, is enthused at the prospect of working with law schools and is willing to provide free access to Woodpecker.


This company has a product called Contract Workbench that can generate contract documents based on current federal law within a specific jurisdiction. Users select the type of contract to be drafted and fill out a short questionnaire, including questions such as jurisdiction, party’s position, and other relevant information. Contract Workbench will then produce the desired document for the attorney to review. At various points throughout this document, there are sliding bars that can be adjusted to favor either party or be neutral.


Josef is a visual tool that helps attorneys create chatbots. The tool allows branching logic, so one could conceivably create a somewhat complicated expert system for a multitude of uses. Josef has a minimal learning curve because instead of a scripting language, the user is presented with a visual representation of the concepts and can dictate how they connect, similar to creating a flowchart. Josef also includes smartphone apps for the prospective client can use to connect to your bot.

Watch for part 2 and 3 to be posted on Wednesday and Friday.

CALI Con 2020 Agents of Innovation PosterChicago, first week of June.  Usually in the mid-70s.  Might not rain. Cubs are in town Wednesday, Sox on Friday and SaturdayThe Monet exhibit will still be at the Art Institute.  The Lincoln Park Zoo is always free, as is the big ‘ol BeanGyros and hot dogs everywhere you look (just don’t ask for ketchup).  There’s plenty of pizza, too!  

You’re just dying to visit us.  How could you not be?

Getting there is easy — the 2020 CALI Conference will be held at Chicago-Kent on Thursday, June 4, and Friday, June 5, 2020.  It’s great to go as an attendee, but even better (and cheaper), to go as a speaker!  Submission proposals are due on Friday, March 6 – you still have plenty of time!

But I’ve never spoken at a conference before!

CALI is a great conference for novice and experienced speakers.  Your audience is engaged and will lots of questions — if not during the presentation, then during the many, many food-laden breaks.  

You’ll never be hungry for long at a CALI conference.


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Guest post by Sarah Johnson, Assistant Director, Collections and Content, at Boley Law Library, Lewis & Clark Law School  

Read on for step-by-step instructions for creating an attractive New Books post in LibGuides using Alma and the blog feature in LibGuides.

Step 1: Catalog and Add to Temporary New Book Location

Newly added items are cataloged and processed, and those selected to be featured on the New Book Shelf are sent to Circulation.

Circulation staff sets a temporary location in the catalog to New Book by using Alma’s Scan in Items function:

Alma > Currently at: Boley Law Library: Circulation Desk > Fulfillment > Scan in Items > Change Item Information > Change type: Temporary > Location: New Book > scan item barcode

Alma View

Twenty-four hours after the items are scanned to the temporary location, a report becomes available in Alma Analytics.

Step 2: Run Alma Analytics New Books Report

We created an Alma Analytics report that is prompted by the date the items were scanned to the New Book temporary location.  The report is saved to our Analytics Objects List in Alma, for easy access.

Alma New Books

Select the date or range of dates the items were scanned to the New Book temporary location.

This is an example of the resulting report:

Step 3: Set up a New Books LibGuide

We use a LibGuide to feature new books by category.  Each new month gets a new page within the guide, and pages from previous months’ new book lists are archived in the guide.  This allows us to review older lists throughout the year, and also to retain page view statistics for each month.

  • Create a template page, including a top box with an introductory message, and hidden boxes for each frequently used category
  • Copy the template page as new hidden pages for each month of the year
  • Create a blank Archive page, under which to nest previous months’ lists

Step 4: Add “Book from the Catalog” Content to LibGuide Boxes

Working from the Alma Analytics report and the online catalog, add each new title to its appropriate category on the LibGuide page for the current month, as a “Book from the Catalog” asset.  Here’s how:

  1. Copy the MMS ID from the Analytics report
  2. Paste it into a Primo search
  3. Click the title in the search result to open the full record
  4. Analyze the title, subject headings, and description in the full record to determine which category or categories in the New Book list to use
  5. Copy the ISBN from Primo
  6. Back in LibGuides – find the box with the appropriate category for the book
  7. Click Add/Reorder > Book from the Catalog
  8. Paste the ISBN > click Get Book Info
  9. Ideally, bibliographic metadata will be available and will populate the following fields in the asset editor: Title, Author/editor, Publication date, Description
  10. Copy the call number from Primo and paste it into the asset editor
  11. Copy the permalink from Primo and paste it into the asset editor
  12. Select the desired Description Display setting (we use Hover over “info” icon)
  13. Save
  14. Repeat for all books in the list

Special considerations:

●     More than one category:

For items that fit in more than one category, add the first asset using the default Create New Book editor; add to the other categories by selecting Add/Reorder > Book from the Catalog > Reuse Existing Book > enter the title of the book to find the asset you already created > select and save.

●     No metadata

If no bibliographic metadata is available, copy and paste it manually from Primo to the editor: Title, Author/editor, Publication date, Description.

●     No cover art

If no cover art is pulled with “Get Book Info,” you can add one via image URL by selecting “Other” from the drop down menu in the cover art box.

Grab the image URL from the publisher’s website, or from a Google Images search.

Paste into the guide asset.

Step 5: Review Changes and Publish the Page

Once all the items from the Analytics report are added, make sure:

  • all populated category boxes are unhidden
  • all empty boxes are hidden or deleted
  • assets within boxes are sorted by title

Then publish the page by setting the page visibility to “Show on public guide.”

Step 6: Reorder / Move Pages to Archive Previous Month

Reorder the pages so that the previous month is nested under the Archive tab: Page > Reorder/Move > Pages. Take a look at the final product.

Step 7: Post a Blog Entry to Announce the Latest Additions

Create a new post using one of the LibGuides blog functions, using a new book cover image from Goodreads, assembled for the current set.

Check out the final product: New Books LibGuide.

The Computing Services Special Interest Section is made up of awesome law librarians doing interesting things.   The CS-SIS Member Spotlight is designed to shine a light on our membership so that we can learn more about each other and stay connected.

CS-SIS Member Spotlight:  Shay Elbaum

Allow me to introduce Shay Elbaum, Secretary/Treasurer of CS-SIS, and a reference librarian at Stanford Law School.  A Michigan native, Shay earned his undergraduate degree in linguistics from McGill University in Montreal. He returned to the University of Michigan to complete his JD, where he focused on federal Indian law (influenced by time spent working in the Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory between undergrad and law school) and worked at the Native American Rights Fund during and after law school, followed by a clerkship with Justice Joel Bolger of the Alaska Supreme Court. During law school, however, Shay worked on the library reference desk and was fond of time spent in the law library.  Lo and behold, positive library experiences and encouragement from his law librarian mentors led Shay to pursue his MLIS from Simmons College rather than follow a path into indigenous law practice.

Shay arrived at Stanford fresh from his MLIS program, with stints as a student worker in the libraries of Brandeis University and Northeastern University School of Law. His work includes tech projects that may be of interest to CS-SIS members. While at Brandeis, he built Jurisdoctopus, a game that introduces students to the U.S. legal system with help from an octopus-shaped alien from the planet Gravlax.  (He built the game using Twine, a Cool Tools Café product featured by Becka Rich at the AALL meeting in 2018. Jurisdoctopus is a cool application of a cool tool!)  He is also working with a colleague on an interactive visualization of legal sources and their connections, using Cytoscape.js to illustrate nodes (e.g., the U.S.C. and C.F.R.) and their links (e.g., the Parallel Table of Authorities and Rules).  Check out a proof-of-concept version at  Shay’s also been involved in building a database to complement a faculty member’s research on a particular procedural tool in huge multi-district cases.  More recently, he has been helping explore digital hosting options for his school’s law journals.

When Shay isn’t serving as one of the Stanford Law Library’s go-tos for tech, he is answering reference questions, working with faculty, providing training, or co-teaching an advanced legal research course.  He loves the diversity of tasks librarianship offers.  What he values most about being a law librarian, however, is having the ability to learn about nearly anything and share that power with others. Put another way, he likes being able to “tangibly help people” with the “ability to comprehend and translate weird and complicated systems.”

As a dabbler in tech, Shay found CS-SIS to be a good community in which to cultivate his interests.  He graciously agreed to serve on our blog committee after being recruited from CONELL and contributed a great article, Data Services in the Law Library, on supporting empirical research.  He appreciates holding a leadership position within the section and hopes CS-SIS can amp up educational opportunities outside of our AALL meeting.  He’s particularly interested in comparing the use of technology across different types of libraries.  He hopes these kinds of educational programs can help build our CS-SIS community.

To close on a more personal note, Shay finds joy in his 20-minute bike commute and the great biking infrastructure and weather in his neighborhood.  He considers himself an “obligatory reader” as a librarian and has recently enjoyed the Paper Girls series by Brian K. Vaughan.  Though he prefers Kindle for travel, Shay still considers the print book a great technology.   Three cheers for Shay and his membership in CS-SIS and for all technology, print or otherwise.

Thanks to Shay for his willingness to be interviewed for this CS-SIS member spotlight.   If you are interested in interviewing and writing a blog post about a CS-SIS member, please contact Tawnya Plumb at  It is a great opportunity to learn about a fellow member.


What is a docket exactly? The best way to describe it is the various forms that a case takes throughout its circuition, embodied as different types of documents as the case progresses over time. Once a case is filed it enters the court system where it is tracked on the docket. Eventually the docket grows to contain the complete history of a given case (from filing to final decisions). Usually the docket begins with an initial complaint, and evolves to include all sorts of other filings. There are many ways to search for dockets. Among the most cutting-edge docket search tools on the market today is Bloomberg Law’s Docket Key, which just keeps getting better.

docket key search

Image courtesy Bloomberg Law’s Product Help Page & Dockets Overview

In a press release last Wednesday, Bloomberg Law announced that their docket filing classification system “Docket Key” now encompasses all federal district courts as part of the system’s scope. This expands the reach of a great search tool which already uses machine learning to identify more than 20 categories of filings (including motions, complaints, notices, briefs, and orders). According to the press release, the repository contains “over 210 million docket entries” plus more being added every day.

Although basic legal research courses in many law schools primarily focus on LexisNexis or Westlaw training, Bloomberg Law has some powerful tools to offer with their AI-engineered products. Their selection provides the essentials found within other legal-document specific collections, and additionally streamlines the docket-retrieval process by placing access to all Federal courts in a single location. From the Tech At Bloomberg’s blog post in 2019 we get a better picture of how Docket Key uses basic text classification, and then treats dockets with slight variations depending on the particular court. Fulya Erdinc, lead of Bloomberg Law’s Machine Learning Engineering team comments:

“There can be lots of entries, and attorneys can be looking for a specific type of filing… by classifying those entries to the type of filing they’re looking for, we can accelerate this process… the challenge is that courts can differ in how they format the entries and the included text. For example, Federal Courts in California and Texas differ from other Federal Courts in how the entries are captured… we developed separate models for those courts.”

If you are just getting started with Dockets in Bloomberg Law, I encourage you to read through their short but sweet product walk through, where you can easily navigate to Docket Key in the left-menu and find screencaptures (like the one pictured here), a guide to searching, and other helpful links. Have you explored Docket Key since it was expanded to include all Federal courts? What are your other favorite AI-powered tools for conducting legal research? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!



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The AALL CPE Committee and PEGA-SIS will include CS-SIS members in “So You Wanna Be A Law Techie?”

CS-SIS member C.J. Pipins will facilitate a conversation with CS-SIS members Jennifer Wondracek and Kenton Brice, as well as Andre Davison about improving tech skills and current awareness.

“So You Wanna be a Law Techie?  ” Thursday, February 13, 2 pm – 2:30 pm EST

For More information and registration:


Libraries have a long history of gathering statistics at all levels. National associations and accrediting agencies such as ALA and ARL, as well as states and consortia gather and use statistics to set benchmarks and provide comparison across libraries. Individual libraries use statistics to inform all kinds of decisions including collections, staffing, physical space allocation and usage, etc. 

With all these different data points and possible things to highlight, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of numbers, or stuck in a routine, and lose sight of the reasons why we’re gathering all this data and how it can actually help us. 

Some things are tracked for so long we forget why we started tracking them in the first place, and usually don’t stop to think whether we should still be tracking them. An example of this from our library is the number of “click-throughs” in our catalog from a bib record through a link displayed as “Content, Cover & More” (shown below as Content Cafe). This statistic might be worthwhile if we used the number of “click-throughs” to determine whether or not to continue paying for the linked service each year, but we don’t. It’s currently just a number we track and then do nothing with. (Another obvious example from the screenshot below that JUST popped out at me while I was writing this is the fact that we track link clicks from bib records to “Alta Vista” which was taken over by Yahoo! in 2003…)

* Honestly, while writing this I’ve been asking myself why we’re tracking ANY of these “click-throughs” and will be doing a full review of this set of statistics ASAP.

When I was trained to gather the statistics for which I’m responsible, I wasn’t really given an explanation of what every number means, or why we track certain things. At different times over the years I remember thinking I should do this kind of evaluation, but it usually only occurred to me once a month/year when it was time to gather the statistics, and I was either “too busy” to do it right then, or would tell myself I’d “do it later” (and never did). So when it came time for me to train someone else to take over certain statistics, I still didn’t have that information to share. We’ve now had at least 4 different people tracking the same statistics over a 10 year period (or longer) without a real review of why or whether we should continue to track some of this data.

Now that I am painfully aware there are things I need to review, I will make this a priority and do a complete evaluation of all the statistics I track, focusing especially on what and why. Once that’s complete, I can get to the “fun” referenced in the title of this post–all the things I can do with this data!

I’d still consider myself a novice when it comes to data visualization, but it’s something I will be spending more time on in the coming months once I finish my evaluation. For others who are beginners to data visualization, this post might be a good place to start. For those with some expertise in Javascript, you might be better off starting with some of the tools in this post. Don’t forget that many of the tools and platforms we already use in our libraries come with dashboards that do some of this for you (see the readership map from our bepress Digital Commons dashboard below).


You can pretty much visualize anything now, so once you’ve evaluated your statistics and know they’re meaningful, take this opportunity to think about who you need/want to share this information with and get creative with how you do it!

To conclude, a shameless plug for our program on this topic at AALL in New Orleans—

“Data, Stats, Go: Navigating the Intersections of Cataloging, E-Resource and Web Analytics Reporting”

Speakers: Racehl Evans (Metadata Services Librarian at UGA Law Library), Wendy Moore (Associate Director for Collection Services at UGA Law Library), Andre Davison (Research Technology Manager at Blank Rome LLP) and me.


Horror stories of long-forgotten statistics or success stories of revamped stats welcome! Please comment below or email me if you’re willing to let us share your story in our program this summer (

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